The Shape Mini Toolbar

The New Shape Mini Toolbar in Visio 2010


visio 2010 - shape mini toolbar

One of the new features in Visio 2010 is the inclusion of two Mini Toolbars that pop up according to when the mouse is located.  One of these toolbars is provided exclusively for editing text; when a shape is selected and text entered, the toolbar appears to make editing the font face, size, colour and alignment very quick and easy.  The other, the shape mini toolbar affects the shape selection that is offered when one of the blue AutoConnect arrows attached to a shape is hovered over.

Contextual Shape Mini Toolbar

The Shape mini toolbar is contextual, and so the shapes presented change according to the type of diagram that is in use.  For example, suppose a basic diagram from the General category is being drawn; when the AutoConnect arrow is selected the choices pertain to the Basic Shapes stencil and comprise Rectangle, Square, Ellipse and Circle.

On the other hand, if a flowchart is being drawn the shapes presented are Process, Decision, Sub-process and Start/End (previously referred to as a Terminator shape) all of which come from the Basic Flowchart shapes stencil.  The same applies to the other drawing categories; Engineering, Maps, Network diagrams and so on all have a selection of shapes on the mini toolbar taken from the “top 4” from the main stencil in each case.

Enable AutoConnect to use the Shape Mini Toolbar in Visio 2010

In order to use this new feature the AutoConnect arrows must first be visible, which by default they are not.  To turn these arrows on and make them appear you must first select the option from the Visual Aids category of the View tab by placing a tick in the checkbox.  Once this is done, the arrows will appear as soon as the mouse pointer is over the shape – it does not need to be selected first – and the mini toolbar will itself appear as the pointer is moved over one of the arrows.

Live Preview allows you to see the effect of using the Shape Mini Toolbar

The new Live Preview feature allows the effect to be seen in real time simply by hovering over the shape; as the mouse pointer is moved over the mini toolbar the shapes will appear in preview mode.  Clicking one at this point will insert the shape, automatically connect it to its predecessor and align it in one action – truly an incredible time saver.

The previous functionality of the AutoConnect arrows still works in Visio 2010.  If, for example, another shape is selected from the stencil in use – in the case of the flowchart example, this could be a document shape – when the AutoConnect arrow is hovered over that shape will appear in addition to the four new shapes on the mini toolbar.  Live Preview allows the effect to be previewed as before, and a click will insert the shape and align it as before.

These new features of Microsoft Visio 2010 really can streamline the process of diagramming and make the construction of a drawing extremely easy.  Very little training is needed to get up to speed with these mini toolbars as they are quite intuitive;  luckily for some people, the shape mini toolbar is also easy to disable if not required.